The leaders of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand have discussed a refreshed partnership that could boost the number of places for short-term RSE horticultural workers coming to Aotearoa.

Christopher Luxon had a stopover in Papua New Guinea while en route to Japan with a business delegation, and met with PNG Prime Minister James Marape.

The two discussed regional issues, a new partnership agreement between the countries expected to be signed before September, and the expansion of the Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) worker programme.

The RSE programme allows workers from participating Pacific countries to fill short-term roles in New Zealand’s horticulture industry.

The workers from PNG were well-respected here, Luxon said.

“We personally think we need to double the amount of RSE workers that we have in New Zealand, from 19,000 up to about 38,000 …. over a period of time.

“So that it’s actually digestible to the countries where those workers are coming from, but also to make sure we’ve got the right accommodation in place and all the investments have happened in those horticultural farms.

“That’s something that we’ll consider through the statement of partnership, with the view of how does that help PNG …so that when those workers go to New Zealand they learn a set of skills that they can advance in New Zealand but also ultimately bring back here to Papua New Guinea.”

Marape said he hoped the workers would be able to earn qualifications while in New Zealand.

New Zealand and PNG both shared ambitions to increase their exports, Luxon said, and should work together on that more.

New Zealand’s assistance after a massive landslide in PNG’s Enga province had been very welcome, Marape said.

The landslide in late May is believed to have killed thousands, and affected about 10,000 people.

Defence forces from New Zealand were sent to distribute supplies in the remote area, and funds were now being funnelled through non-government organisations, Luxon said.

“We’re open to helping any way we can. Initially, it was about getting supplies into the region using some of our defence assets … we did talk about geotech where there’s expertise we can bring.

“It’s a pretty tragic set of events – it’s in a very remote part of the country, it’s difficult to access, and we stand ready to help.”

Luxon’s visit was warmly welcomed, Marape said.

“New Zealand has a senior presence in our part of Planet Earth.

“[It] has always made quality interventions in PNG matters over the last 49 years we’ve been independent; they’ve always had an active presence in our country.

“The future is where we will not take each other for granted but we consolidate on our past … and create a shared future that is mutually beneficial for both nations.”

Luxon also underlined the value of the relationship New Zealand holds with PNG.

“Papua New Guinea is such a critical relationship to us, it’s a relationship that matters,” he said.

“We want to continue to move forward and … deepen our partnership, that’s why we’re hopeful … we’ll be able to sign an enhanced statement of partnership, a renewed statement about how our countries are going to work together.”

The pair planned to hold further discussions at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Tonga, from 26 to 30 August.

Luxon had also been invited to Papua New Guinea for the country’s 50th anniversary of independence in September 2025.

An Air Niugini commercial flight swooped in to rescue New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon after the New Zealand Royal Air Force plane he arrived on faced a “technical glitch” following his brief stopover Sunday.

The issue forced Luxon and entourage to fly to Japan via Port Moresby.

The New Zealand Defence Force 757 plane blew a fuse while refuelling in Papua New Guinea. After replacing the fuse, it blew again. The Air Force are now changing the controller box to identify if that is the issue. If not, the fault could be mechanical.

Trade Minister Todd McClay, who is a member of the delegation to Japan, told reporters a decision was made to make sure Luxon was able to get to Japan on a commercial flight, which coincided along with a small delegation.

“The Air Force is working as hard as they can to make sure we’re safe and that we can be there as soon as possible.”

The rest of the delegation and media will now head to Brisbane this morning where an Air New Zealand flight will take them on to Japan to meet back up with Luxon.

A “maintenance fault” on the plane in March saw Luxon have to take a commercial flight to Australia to attend the ASEAN conference in Melbourne. Defence Minister Judith Collins described the breakdown as “pretty embarrassing” at the time.

Luxon has set high standards for both himself and the 31 business leaders he is travelling with to Japan.

Earlier, Luxon told 1News that Japan would play a key role in the coalition Government’s goal of doubling exports within 10 years.

“We’ve got good exporting firms, but we really want them all to scale up and become much, much larger and become much more global firms as a result of doing that.”

Japan is already a major investor in New Zealand, which includes geothermal plants, forestry assets, tourism, and international students.

There is also interest in new and emerging areas around renewable energy, space, and climate investment.

“Particularly in space, we know there’s a lot of interest from Japan in what were doing in the space world,” Luxon said.

Japan is the fourth largest export partner for New Zealand.

However, it’s also a significant partner regarding security in the region.

“There’s huge amount of alignment and like-mindedness between the two countries and we want to work with like-minded partners on common interests,” he said.

Japan has been asked by AUKUS partners, Australia, the UK and US, to consider joining Pillar Two of the partnership looking at enhanced technology information sharing.

Luxon said he expects those discussions will be high-level.